Saturday, April 21, 2018


 We know that we haven't kept our blog up to date.  Sorry.   This post is about what took place almost two years ago.  We'll try to do better going forward.

Approaching the Anchorage at Fernando de Noronha

March 2016

After leaving Ascension we really wanted a taste of Brazil! The northeast Brazilian coast is not considered a safe place to transit so we decided to visit the Brazilian island paradise of Fernando de Noronha, an easy 1,100 mile passage from Ascension, about 350 miles due east of Fortaleza (on the mainland) and 3° south of the equator.  This tropical paradise is really a string of very large rocks out in the middle of the S. Atlantic with no protected anchorage for mooring. We anchored in 30 feet of water about a half of a mile off shore and along with our amigos (Helga and Rene) on S/V Amigo we set out to look for some good Brazilian food and music! 

The island reeked of happiness!   We took local buses from one end of the island to the other just to tour the island and all local passengers were smiling, chatting, swaying to their ipods and giving us suggestions on where to eat!  If this is Brazil, bring it on!  The air smelled sweet, the sun shone bright, birds were singing, the food melted in your mouth, the energy was vibrant and we were very happy.

Nothing lasts forever, even paradise, and a huge Atlantic swell moved in on our unprotected side of the island.  After spending a morning watching Amigo completely disappear from our sight in between the swells (we could not even see the top of their mast and they reported that Rutea disappeared just as completely) we decided we better head out and continue along our equatorial route towards Tobago. Ciao Brazil!

This next passage was a 1900 mile run through the inter-tropical convergence zone from south of the equator to ten degrees north.  Our twelve foot swell accompanied us for days as did squalls, lightning and one water spout.  It was not an easy or particularly enjoyable passage, but it was interesting knowing we were sailing off of the northern coast of Brazil past the Amazon River and basin.  We made good time with wind and current in our favor and knew that the reward  at the end of the passage  would be to anchor in the turquoise waters of Tobago where we could lime to our hearts content, snorkel the Buccoo Reef, attend Sunday School (a weekly food and music beach party beginning about 11:00 p.m.) and rest up before heading to Trinidad where we would end our season.  Total days at sea-12.

Blue-Crowned Mot-Mot

Unless you are an avid bird watcher you probably would not go to Trinidad to vacation.  There are fifteen different species of hummingbirds on the island and the Asa Wright Nature Center is world renown for Hummers as well as Honeycreepers, Tanagers, Mot Mots, Toucans, Woodpeckers and a host of other species.  If you spend the night you might share your room with an agouti or a well known specie of tarantula!  But that is about all that lures the tourist.  There are no beautiful beaches, reefs to snorkel or charming coves to in which to anchor.  Trini is twelve miles off of the coast of Venezuela in some places and is surrounded by oil platforms.  Oil tankers abound in the main port, Port of Spain and kids swim in the bay next to the Alcoa Aluminum plant.

Trinidad does have, however, a reputation for being a very good boat repair and haul-out destination as it is south of the hurricane belt and although it has a VERY wet season, it has not been hit by a hurricane in many years.  Thus, every year hundreds of cruisers head to Trinidad, haul their boats out of the water into the boat yard and skedaddle! That being said, local knowledge and instructions to the infiltrating cruiser are that during the day you are free to wander the area around Charguaramas, between marinas and chandleries- even go in to Port of Spain to the public market.  But by dark, you had best be inside the marina gates and off of the street and if you go any where around the bay, go by dinghy- do not walk on the highway. 

Trinidad seems to be one of those slow-to-change countries that is not particularly egalitarian in its integration.  There is a mix of white people- descendants of the colonialists, black people- descendants of the slaves and East Indian people- descendants of indentured servants also brought in to work in the plantation fields. After WWI the oil industry boomed and people of all races were hired to work the oil fields.  Oil jobs were preferred and better paying than plantation work, so much of the agriculture went by the wayside.  When the oil marked collapsed in the 80s many people were out of work with no agricultural industry to fall back on. Even though the country’s economy has stabilized there are still people living in board shacks without running water or electricity next to fancy shopping malls.  The murder rate in Trinidad is high, it is a major corridor for cocaine from South America and government corruption is deep.

Nevertheless, Neal and I found Trinidad HOT and fascinating.  We jumped into our boat projects, bought our lunches from the curry stand on the highway right outside of the marina gates, attended the ex-pat  Sunday Mexican Train marathons, went to Shark and Bake at the Wheelhouse Pub (by dinghy), attended the Tuesday cruiser’s pot luck and went to Wednesday BBQ night also at the Wheelhouse, where they would haul a six foot swordfish fresh off a boat, down the dock in a dock cart, and cut it up right in front of us throwing huge steaks on the grill for all who ordered it.

David Underwood 1963-2016
We had just signed up with Jesse James to go on a Taste of Trini Tour  with a stop by the Asa Wright Nature Center when we received the phone call that no one ever wants to receive.  Our nephew was missing in a diving accident off of the Turks and Caicos and it was not looking good for his recovery.  We dropped everything and 48 hours later we were home in San Diego making the most difficult passage our collective family has ever made.  No one ever expects to lose a family member.  But in the natural order of things we know that grandparents and parents pass before kids.  The loss of a child (no matter what age and David was 50) is just about as rough, dark and stormy of a passage as there can be.  Life as we knew it ended today.  Everything, all plans, were put on hold until enough healing time could pass so that we could return to life and begin the next passage anew. 

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